By Tim O’Dell, Chris Kelly and Sadie Robinson
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South London bus strikers stand firm on the picket line

As the cost of living crisis deepens, bus drivers in south London are demanding higher pay
Issue 2805
The south London bus strike picket line, around 7 people hold placards and stand behind a banner

Solidarity on the south London bus strike picket line (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Pickets were out in force on Wednesday at south London bus garages operated by Arriva, as workers continued their strikes for an above-inflation pay rise. There were around 70 pickets outside Brixton garage, and they were in a confident mood.

Nearly every driver, including some non-union members, joined the strike and came to the picket line. Pickets booed three scab drivers as their bus crept out of the garage. Meanwhile dozens of vehicles tooted in approval of the pickets, amid a festive atmosphere of music, flag-waving and cheering.

Over 50 pickets also closed down West Norwood garage with the manager forced to watch from a nearby car, much to the vocal appreciation of strikers. Local trade unionists from the Unison and GMB unions joined the picket lines to give solidarity.

 At the Brixton garage, delegates from local RMT and NEU branches brought messages of solidarity and there was agreement that all must build wider solidarity for future strike days and organise big contingents for the TUC demonstration in London on 18 June.

The strikes involve 1,000 drivers in the Unite union based at Brixton, Croydon, Norwood and Thornton Heath. Workers followed a 48-hour strike last month with this week’s action and a further 48-hour strike is scheduled from next Monday. Escalation is the way to win.

 A bus driver picketing at Brixton garage said, “We work five days a week and it’s not enough because we still don’t have enough money. 

“They keep you in want. All the bus companies. You are supposed to retire at a certain time, then you have to do extra because you can’t afford to. Just like you have to do an extra day in the week or an extra two days.

 “You spend all your valuable time working for people to make other people rich. Those who make the millions for them get nothing. You should be able to have a life outside work. You work, work, work. Then you’re at home with your kids and they’re ringing you to come into work. All we want is a decent living. People who work still don’t have enough money, they have to go to food banks.

“The union let us down for years. They’re more for the company than for us. They settle for a small thing instead of a decent thing. When you settle for one point this and two point that—it’s nothing.

“Everybody should strike because we are important. If we don’t come out we won’t get anything.”

Struggle, and strikes such as this, are the right response to soaring prices and the falling value of pay, pensions and benefits. 

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